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A cynic’s take on papers with novel methods to improve transparency

David McKenzie's picture

What is the signal we should infer from a paper using a novel method that is marketed as a way to improve transparency in research?

I got to thinking about this issue when seeing a lot of reactions on twitter like “Awesome John List!”, “This is brilliant”,etc. about a new paper by Luigi Butera and John List that investigates in a lab experiment how cooperation in an allocation game is affected by Knightian uncertainty/ambiguity. Contrary to what the authors had expected, they find adding uncertainty increases cooperation. The bit they are getting plaudits for is then the following in the introduction:

Weekly links April 28: how many qual interviews are needed, enterprise-academic collaboration, work for me, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

Should we pay kids to read?

David Evans's picture
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were reading aloud Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s newest book, a short volume entitled Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. The eponymous fifteen suggestions are Adichie’s advice to her friend on how to raise her daughter – Chizalum – as a feminist. Here’s the fifth suggestion: “Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example. If she sees you reading, she will understand that reading is valuable.” This all seems sensible. Now, skip down to the end: “If all else fails, pay her to read. Reward her. I know this remarkable Nigerian woman, Angela, a single mother who was raising her child in the United States; her child did not take to reading so she decided to pay her five cents a page. An expensive endeavor, she later jokes, but a worthy investment.” In the margin, I scribbled, “Look at lit on this.”
 

 

The importance of study design (why did a CCT program have no effects on schooling or HIV?)

Berk Ozler's picture

A recent paper in Lancet Global Health found that generous conditional cash transfers to female secondary school students had no effect on their school attendance, dropout rates, HIV incidence, or HSV-2 (herpes simplex virus – type 2) incidence. What happened?

Weekly links April 21: hostile attitudes to random assignment, scaling up, we make it easier to search the blog, contagious exercise, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

Is bigger better? Agriculture edition

Markus Goldstein's picture
One of the more exciting sessions I went to at the recent Centre for the Study of African Economies Conference was on the relationship between agricultural plot size and productivity.  I walked out of the session not sure of the shape of the relationship, but I was sure of the fact that there is a lot of measurement error going on.   And this is measurement error that matters a lot.  
 

Scaling Up Effective Programs – Kenya and Liberia Edition

David Evans's picture
Over the last decade, both Kenya and Liberia have sought to scale up successful pilot programs that help children to learn to read. Even as more and more impact evaluations are of programs at scale, pilots still constitute a significant portion of what we test. That’s with good reason: Governments wisely seek to pilot and test programs before expending valuable resources in implementing a program across the country.

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